Note that Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island has compassionately given the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding over a year - fifteen months to be exact - to reconsider. Looks like time is just about up. The Providence Journal reporting:
Even as a Brown University student, Ann Holmes Redding was never far away from controversy.Read it all here.
She was barely into her freshman year in 1968 when she joined a black student walkout to get the university to admit more blacks — a move that resulted in a near quadrupling of the number of black students to about 250 the following year.
And after students staged a strike that effectively closed down the university to show their opposition to the Vietnam War, Redding was part of a “blue ribbon” delegation from Brown that went in the spring of 1970 to Washington to talk to such alumni as White House aide Charles Colson and U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell about ending the conflict.
But these days, as she approaches the 25th anniversary of her ordination as an Episcopal priest on March 25, Redding, who lives in Seattle, faces controversy of a different sort. She is on the verge of being defrocked by Rhode Island Episcopal Bishop Geralyn Wolf because of her insistence that she can be a Muslim and Christian at the same time.
Bishop Wolf, who is Redding’s canonical superior, has told Redding that her conversion to Islam through her recitation of Shahada, the basic Islamic creed, constitutes an abandonment of the Christian faith and that unless she recants by March 30, she will no longer be a priest.
The warning, formally issued by Bishop Wolf with the backing of the diocesan standing committee last September, has been among the communications that began in September 2007, soon after Bishop Wolf attended a meeting of the House of Bishops and heard stories about a priest claiming to be both Muslim and Christian.
Bishop Wolf recalls getting up at that meeting and saying such a stand was misguided because the fundamental teachings were incompatible. Only after returning to Rhode Island, she says, did she discover that Redding, a former parishioner at St. Stephen’s Church in Providence, had been ordained by her predecessor, Bishop George N. Hunt. Because Redding never shifted her canonical residence, Bishop Wolf is her superior.
“I had her come in because I didn’t want to rely on a newspaper story,” the bishop recounted. “I said to her, ‘This is a spiritual challenge for you to decide where you are in terms of your understanding of the Christian faith, especially Christ’s passion, and resurrection and incarnation. I want you to take some time to seek spiritual direction.’ ”
Redding had been, until March 2007, the director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, in Seattle, and was just starting a stint as a visiting scriptural scholar at the Jesuit-run Seattle University. News of her unusual embrace of Islam and Christianity had gotten into the local papers and had been warmly received by the then-bishop of Olympia, the Right Rev. Vincent Wardell Warmer, who called her move innovative.
But Redding received a different set of marching orders from Bishop Wolf, who directed her not to wear the collar or to act as a priest for one year, and then extended it for three more months.
When the bishop and priest met again last September, Redding repeated her view that she saw no conflict between embracing Islam and following Jesus. It was then that Bishop Wolf said she would begin proceedings to have her deposed.
In Bishop Wolf’s view, the moment that Redding recited the words of the Shahada, the creed that says “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,” she gave her allegiance to Islam and abandoned the Christian faith.
“As I understand it, Muslims do not believe in the divinity of Christ. They don’t believe in the death of Christ or that he is the Son of God, which are cornerstones of the Christian faith. Yes, there are people in every religion who try to stretch the basic tenets of a belief, but if you choose to be a priest within the Episcopal Church you are speaking for the church and its teachings. It demands a commitment.”
Reached at her home in Seattle, Redding said Thursday that unless something causes her to radically change her convictions in the next few weeks, she will “continue to be faithful to the call and invitation that God has given to me.”
She says that while she had been familiar with some of the teachings of Islam, she began looking at them more seriously after inviting Muslims to speak at the cathedral in the aftermath of 9/11.
But it was a personal crisis, one she does not wish to share, that led her, she says, to a realization that “I needed to totally surrender myself to God. Surrender to God is what Islam is about.”
She says she first recited the Shahada alone in her mother’s apartment in Pennsylvania a month after her mother died, and then in a public ceremony before several dozen members of Al Islam Center of Seattle, a largely Sunni community with whom she had been praying for six months.
“It never occurred to me I was leaving Christianity any more than the early disciples of Jesus would have felt they were leaving Judaism by becoming his followers,” she said. “It was only after the fact that I recognized it could be very confusing to many people.”
And how does Redding place herself between two faiths, one which holds that Jesus is the Son of God and another that regards Jesus as a prophet and forerunner to Muhammad but not God’s Son?
Redding, who’d like to be a bridge between the two faiths, insists that the two religions are closer than many think. The Koran, like the New Testament, teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. She says she finds that Muslims are more firm in that belief than many Christians she knows, who seem not to be sure.
She says she continues to believe that Jesus is divine but goes on to explain that she believes there is an element of the divine in all of us. “We are all children of God.”